'Today We Can Talk But We Can't Talk Today'
by Paul Smart
There are many ways in which the new show of works by Bard College Center for Curatorial Studies' Artist-in-Residence Bernd Krauss, opening at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild's Kleinert/James Arts Center officially Saturday, November 1 (after being up now for a week), represents a key step forward for the local arts scene.

For several years now, Bard College's Center for Curatorial Studies has been the engine driving much of the region's biggest art trends, whether or not local audiences have been aware. Students and outside curators have utilized the 1980s-and-beyond base of their Marieluise Hessel Collection of more than 2,000 works to explore major themes confronting the world's top-end arts scene while regularly bringing in rising art stars to strut their stuff in the institution's awe-inspiring gallery spaces, by far the region's best. Along the way, CCS has made up for its lack of populist outreach by not only training some of the top curators working in other major cultural institutions throughout the region, from SUNY New Paltz's Dorsky Museum to MASS MOCA in the Berkshires, but it's also become a major source of inspiration, and contemplation, for many leading Hudson Valley artists.

This is an arena and stage that was once Woodstock's, back when the town's artists were among the nation's cutting edge a half century ago (and more). And with this show, 'Today We Can Talk, But We Can't Talk Today,' as well as similar projects CCS has undertaken with the Center for Photography at Woodstock in recent years, it's an arena that's being tugged, at least in part, back across the river to help spur local artists and collectors back into the forefront of today's art world.

"An exhibition based on process rather than solely on the display of objects in space works to combat commoditization and draws on the energy of performance art," runs the description. "What does it mean for a curator to confuse or even swap roles with the artist, for example reproducing the artist's work herself? Together, they are producing an exhibition of instinct and reference; giving diverse form to this question in a broad range of media and extending beyond the physical space of the gallery."

But what, in the end, does it all look like? The new work at the Kleinert looks a mess at first...chairs are set up for a lecture, yet compete with other settings that play off other uses. There's a cluttered work space, with desk; a pair of easy chairs with carpet and lamp, wall stuff (some of it like paintings, others like sculpture), a blue tarp, television monitors. It's hard to maneuver amongst, and god knows how they're going to rearrange things for concerts and other events.

And yet it somehow invites inspection and, upon closer observation (which will shift as it all shifts with rearrangements to accommodate the room's other uses over time), gets smarter and smarter in terms of the thoughts, witticisms, and larger concepts at play.

And it's fun; completely different from anything else we've seen in town here for quite some time.

Concurrent with this show, Krauss - who is based in Nuremberg, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden - when not supporting his art doing residencies around the world is also enmeshed in the creation of another work, "I Am Yours," on the Bard campus. That one centers around a wood shed situated on the grounds of the Center on the Bard College campus in Annandale, which the artist is transforming into a studio, a curatorial space, and whatever else he might think of over the coming autumn.

Sum it up? Krauss paints, draws, sculpts, videos, photographs, records, lectures, writes and even performs as an apparent amateur, although the acuity of his conceptualized intentions, seen in documentation and/or memory, takes him into the realm of serious art And like all such work these days, it transcends its own penchant for art world in-jokes, via a consistency of tone - intensified observation - that shares a keen intelligence with its audience.

Be ready for some caustic commentary on our Upstate lives, as well as some silly oversimplifications of Woodstock's generalized persona. But, as we noted at the beginning, this show's a groundbreaker. And if something bothers you, feel free to move it...

There will be an opening reception for Bernd Krauss's "Today We Can Talk But We Can't Talk Today" Saturday, November 1, from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. The exhibition then stays up through November 30. Another special event, involving Krauss, is being planned for 1 p.m., Sunday, November 9.

The Kleinert/James Arts Center is located at 34 Tinker Street, just off the Village Green. For further information, visit www.woodstockguild.org or call 679-2940. Or just go to part of the show, itself a trip, at http://todaywecantalk.blogspot.com/.++

© 2008